By Dan Kilbridge | | 5 mins
Sports Events With The Largest Betting Volume
Americans annually wager an estimated $155 billion on sports, a number that’s sure to rise as more states legalize sports gambling in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to strike down a 1992 federal law banning betting in most states.
That’s not counting the worldwide betting handle across regulated markets in Europe and Asia. While the total amount bet globally through legal and illegal means is tough to measure, it’s clear the numbers will only continue to rise for the foreseeable future.
All bettors have their own style and system, particularly which sports they like to play. But some sporting events are big enough to transcend regional preferences, pulling in mind-boggling amounts wagered on a single game or series.
Here are the most heavily-bet sporting events around the world, which make up a large chunk of the estimates in the American market and beyond.
American football has nothing on the World Cup as far as betting is concerned. The quadrennial soccer tournament features 64 matches to bet on and drew approximately 3.572 billion viewers in 2018 – roughly half the world’s population.
According to a FIFA study, they aren’t just casual viewers. The sport’s governing body estimates that $136 billion was wagered throughout the tournament, including $7.2 billion alone on the final match between France and Croatia. Yeah, soccer betting is huge.
No other sporting event comes close, and Americans will be able to legally get a piece of the action in many states for the 2022 Men’s World Cup in Qatar.
The biggest American sporting event of the year is basically a national holiday at this point, pulling in roughly 102 million viewers for the Kansas City Chiefs’ 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 54.
Super Bowl betting numbers are even more staggering. The American Gaming Association expected roughly $6.8 billion to be bet across the board for the big game in 2020. Aside from traditional point spread and total wagers, prop bets and exotics make up a significant portion of the handle – some sportsbooks offered as many as 600 additional props for the Chiefs-49ers game.
Office bracket pools have been around forever, but there are plenty of ways to bet the NCAA’s flagship event. The college basketball tournament features 67 games and attracts a healthy number of bets on each. The American Gaming Association says that the amount of money bet throughout the tournament surpasses Super Bowl betting by a significant margin, with an estimated $8.5 billion bet on March Madness.
The total handle in Nevada suggests that’s accurate, with roughly $305.5 million bet at regulated sportsbooks for the 2019 tournament. That’s more than double the reported Super Bowl 53 handle of $145 million.
Horse racing remains deeply ingrained in American sports betting culture, and its premier race at Churchill Downs to start the Triple Crown takes the cake. The 2019 Kentucky Derby pulled in roughly $250.9 million in wagers across the world, including $4.1 million with Kentucky Derby betting offered for the first time in Japan.
The 2019 race also featured a controversial ending for bettors – longshot Country House was named the winner after seemingly victorious Maximum Security was disqualified for a lane violation upon video review.
While not as popular as it used to be, big prize fights still generate tons of global buzz and big money bets.
Boxing betting in Nevada totaled more than $100 million on the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight in 2017, with Mayweather scoring a TKO win over the UFC crossover star in the 10th round. Outside of Super Bowls, the fight drew the biggest-ever betting handle in Nevada for a single event or game.
The Fall Classic offers a minimum of four MLB games to bet on in the season finale, and lately the betting interest has been off the charts. Nevada sportsbooks took on $1.1 billion in baseball wagers throughout the 2017 season.
The 2019 matchup between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals gained increased nationwide World Series betting interest as Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale bet at least $11 million on the Astros across several sportsbooks and multiple states in an effort to hedge his own furniture store promotion.
That turned into a big profit for operators as the Nationals won in seven games.
Other Notable Events
Cricket World Cup: Cricket is huge outside of America, and this One-Day International event held every four years draws a massive TV – and betting – audience.
Rugby World Cup: Another sport that tugs on national pride everywhere outside of the United States, it draws plenty of betting worldwide every four years.
Melbourne Cup: The biggest horse race in Australia draws a huge international audience (and international betting).
Grand National: One of the world’s most challenging horse races and wildly popular in Great Britain.